May 9, 2007
By Kathy Kiely
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., delivered a forceful message to the White House on Tuesday as members of her Democratic leadership prepared for a vote later this week on a new Iraq funding bill.
"I know one thing for certain: This war is wrong," Pelosi said in an interview with USA TODAY. "I will do anything to stop it."
The House Democrats' proposal, scheduled for a vote Thursday, would provide enough money for military operations through the end of August, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters. It would require lawmakers to take a second vote in mid-July — after the president gives them a progress report — on whether to release more money.
Pelosi's anti-war rhetoric comes as she and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are trying to negotiate a compromise with the White House that will keep troops in the field from running out of funds while not alienating anti-war activists in their party. "Democrats should stand strong," said Tom Matzzie of MoveOn.org, a liberal activist group whose political action committee helps raise money for Democrats. "The next step has to be a step toward ending the war."
The proposal drew immediate criticism from Republican leaders. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said there was "minimal to no enthusiasm" in his caucus. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, accused Democrats of treating troops like "children who are getting a monthly allowance." White House spokesman Tony Snow said it "denies commanders and forces the kind of predictability they need to be able to plan effectively."
U.S. forces will run out of money by midsummer if Congress does not provide a fresh infusion. President Bush vetoed a funding bill May 1 because it had a deadline for troop withdrawal.
Pelosi contends the House Democrats' latest proposal is a "responsible" way of ensuring funding for troops in harm's way without giving a "blank check" to the White House.
She is also trying to maintain unity in her party. Conservatives from military districts, such as Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, are uneasy about leaving troops without needed funds. Some of the party's more liberal members are insisting on a tougher line with the White House.
This week, a Democratic presidential candidate, former North Carolina senator John Edwards, began running ads arguing that Democrats should send the funding bill with a troop withdrawal deadline to Bush "again and again" rather than negotiate a compromise.
Pelosi, one of 133 House members who voted against the 2002 measure that authorized Bush to go to war in Iraq, said she believes she's got the credibility to keep anti-war Democrats in line. She was against the war at a time when such a position "was not without risks," she said. "I said there is no intelligence to support this threat, and they know I said that."